"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Teddy Roosevelt
Andover, MASSACHUSETTS--Yesterday was my first time at the Merrimack River Trail Race in Andover, MA but it probably won't be my last. With the passing of winter my focus is now squarely fixed on spring/summer trail racing culminating with one of my favorite races of the year, the Pineland Farm Trail Race on Memorial Day weekend. With a lot of work to do before then, this year I decided to change my preparation slightly. Instead of a 1/2 marathon on the roads this spring, I've committed to a number of longer (and tougher) Grand Tree Races. The Merrimack River Trail Race was the first one on the list. I picked up Geoff and we made the 45 minute trip to just south of the NH border where we met teammates Rich Lavers, Danny Ferreira, Jay Curry, and Richie Blake. A rather cool morning had me a little confused with what to wear. In hindsight, I'm happy I ditched the aR winter hat. Although I probably hadn't been 10 miles since MNT EPIC last fall, my 15k Bow Lake loop last weekend left me with a great deal of confidence. In speaking with a number of "Rivah" veterans I understood that the out-and-back course design was flat and fast for the first and last 3 miles and 'hilly' in the middle 4. I lined up 2 or 3 rows deep and was immediately caught behind a wall of bodies not 10 meters into the race as the course bottlenecked into a double-wide very muddy section with a handful of tight turns. When I was finally able to start running I found myself in a long line of runners on some pretty flat singletrack. The pace was, as expected, brisk. Passing was tough on this first section but thankfully it was only a few hundred meters long. As things started to shake out I realized that once again I was behind Trail Monster extraordinaire Ryan Triffitt. Not having raced Ryan much on anything but snow I figured that the dirt was probably his element. Although it took a tremendous effort, over the next mile or so I finally caught and passed him. Always the great competitor he had a few encouraging words for me (and I'm sure a few that weren't so encouraging under his breath). At the 3 mile split I quickly looked down at my watch and was pleased to see that I was under 21 minutes. With the toughest section of the course still ahead I felt very comfortable with the pace and my early performance. Starting around the 4 mile mark things did get a little more difficult with a couple of steep climbs in and around the powerlines that had everyone around me (including me) walking. Luckily these ascents weren't very long and the misery was kept to a minimum. Within 500 meters from the turn around the leaders started racing back at me. Kevin Tilton and Ben Nephew were within a few meters of each other with the 3rd place runner some distance back. Geoff was in 4th place alone with Danny around the Top 10. I hit the 5 mile turn around in :35, grabbed a quick splash, and headed back the same way I had just come. I was very pleased to see Rich only 5-10 seconds back and I called for him to catch and run with me. By the time we hit the final flat 3 miles I had caught up to a runner I had been battling all day long. He was running a comfortably fast pace and I knew if I could hang onto him we'd have a chance to pick off a couple of runners ahead of us...and that's just what we did. In the final mile we passed two other runners but in the process my partner accelerated and gapped me. I held off those two in the last 25 meters to finish in 33rd place overall (9th overall master) in a time of 1:13:13. Rich was right behind me in 36th place. All in all a very good performance for early April. I ran consistently hard from start to finish, picked up a few places late, and had no health issues. Thank goodness for snowshoe racing.
"Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through the obstruction." - William James